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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Time to grow up?

bogey changing belarus 05
Changing the bogeys - crossing the border from Russia to Belarus, Sep 2007. Photo taken from an adjoining carriage that's also jacked right up.

Listening to Branson's autobiography again today has really hit me hard.

That, and talk with my colleague George (who is rapidly becoming an entrepreneur extraordinaire) regarding several ideas for ventures here in Tokyo that is pushing me to face my fears and get on and do what I need to do.

I've come a long way I know, but I still see myself being held back by a big nagging doubt about whether I can suceed in business or not.

The balance between talk and action in my life is way out. Look at me now. I'm blogging, not acting.

Ok, so I've created a (yet to be launched) website for my venture, but I can feel myself resisting stepping forward and acting to do what's needed in the real world. I tend to do things bit by bit, avoiding looking the plan in the eye, skirting the edges. I've built websites before, I can do that. They're within my comfort zone, no matter what the content (within reason).

By going out there and interviewing people, networking in real life, actually producing something other than a website - this is outside of my comfort zone and the fear is only too apparent.

There's never been a better time for action though. I've met someone who shares my passion for my idea, and will make a great co-producer. As of today I'm hooked up with a couple of entrepreneurial networks (via Linked in), and have been invited to speak at an upcoming event for the sake of furthering my idea / carrying out research.

We have no dependents, we can afford to take risks (within reason) - without some risk nothing will change.

I spoke with *Twinkle* tonight about this strong feeling that things have to change - her reaction was one of delight. 'It's about time you grew up' - exactly what I've been thinking myself all week.

She has been concerned that Joseph would never grow up sufficiently to be a father - she's not said this before, but I'm not surprised. I identify wholly with what she is telling me. (I hope you see the irony following my privious post.

It's time I assert myself. Remain humble and eager to learn from others, but stop kowtowing to fear, and stop thinking that everyone knows better than me.

I desperately want to succeed in the business realm. I'm not motivated by money (although the need for money by those around me does motivate me to a certain extent). I'm motivated by wanting to create something amazing that makes a positive difference to others in some way, by the idea of doing what I love every day, being free to put my precious limited time towards what I consider to be the most important thing that I can put my time towards.

It really is time I grew up.




I'd like to express my thanks to my family, friends and Mumblers who have consistently expressed their belief in my ability to realise my dreams. I invite you to continue to stay tuned and see what happens here over the next 1, 3 and 5 years.

Ok. So let's do it.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The thrill that is life


Feeling really gripped by life at the moment. The feeling of adventure is almost tangible. My desire to make the most of every moment has resulted in my feeling like I'm sitting in the front car of a rollercoaster. It's a fantastic ride - what will the next corner bring? Excitement as we persevere in climbing the incline, imagining the view that awaits us above. Reaching the top, excitement is replaced by joy as we see the sun-drenched landscape way below us, giving us an idea of just how high we've climbed. Then comes the thrilling descent - we're moving forward at tremendous speed, propelled by the result of all our hard work up until now.

Just as we get used to the incredible cruise, a violent corner sees us lurch to the left, stomachs left behind. Nauseous, wanting the bend to end ...but OK as we know the bend will end.

This is how it feels.

Just walking back from the station, I felt as if I was moving at 100mph.



Home. Our new England-themed business cards have arrived - these are joint cards featuring both *Twinkle* and I: fifty of my photos on the front given new acquaintances a choice, the same shot from our wedding on the back of each one so people remember who we are - how many times have you found yourself with a stack of business cards trying to put names to faces held in your noggins?

I love these cards, and I'm excited by the idea of giving them away.



I've spent the last two days attempting to transfer a completed wordpress blog from my local server (Mamp on my MacBook) to a live server - crikey o'Reily, will I ever figure it out?! I'm new to sql databases, and somewhat confuzzed. Will feel good when I do eventually succeed though - and I WILL succeed.



Really starting to feel the benefits of the sub-experiment which I began in 2006/2007, that of accepting that there is a good reason for everything that happens, although I may never know what the reason is. Only this week I marvelled at how much better I was able to deal with some interpersonal conflict. Two years back I would have been knocked for six by energy-sapping negative feelings directed towards myself and the other, but instead I was able to look on the bright side of the situation before the badness even kicked in, trusting that this was the right thing to happen. What a powerful thing thinking is.

I am fortunate in that there are very few negative people around me. I wonder if that's a coincidence...

I should add, I am yet to be truly tested here. My life has been pretty blessed these past, er, 31 years.

Crikey. I'm 31.



My love goes out to Mr. Indi, and his wife. If you have some spare positive thoughts, I'd encourage you to subscribe to Is This All There Is? and send them their way.

It's an emotional journey, and I'm not even the one living it.



The getting-up-at-6am thing is going really well. I whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone who doesn't like mornings. It can make you super-productive, get your day off to a gorgeously satisfying start, puts you in sync with the natural cycle of the earth. (It does require going to bed before midnight though).



Going back to the power of thought, I've just been listening to The Field by Lynne McTaggart, as recommended by my mate Stuballs.
Based on interviews with today's cutting-edge scientists, investigative journalist Lynne McTaggart wrote The Field, a compelling presentation of the theory that there is a measurable "life force" in the universe.
She cites some pretty interesting scientific experiments in which the power of thought to influence both people and machines is demonstrated. It's not a great book in terms of writing style, but very interesting nonetheless.

I'm also still half way through Bill Bryson's A short history of nearly everything.

I am forever more convinced of the power of thought when it comes to shaping our lives, yet remain a poor practitioner. There's always more work to be done! Incidentally, whilst on the subject, I recommend Walking Through Walls by Phillip Smith - thanks to orchid64 for gifting me a copy (which I am loving, at the rate of about one chapter a week!)



Recently I have purposefully subscribed to a lot of blogs written by expats in Japan. It's incredible to find this thriving community, where everyone 'knows' everyone else. There's a real feeling of friendship, much of it revolving around Twitter - are you on Twitter yet? If not, you will be, so you might as well sign up now... :-) (I'm @tamegoeswild).

Japan Soc is another major gathering place. If you blog about Japan you might be interested in participating in a new effort to build a mutually beneficial community here. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Speaking of which, I think I'll have a cup of tea.



Ok, I needed to say all that. Feel relieved now. On with the ride.

much love xxx

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Earthquakes and iPhoto09

joseph at Zieteil
Random image: me at Zietal, the highest monastery in Europe (nr Savognin, Switzerland), age 10-ish. I was in a real strop that day, running off ahead and refusing to speak to mum and dad!

Earthquakes really do give me the jeepers. I think the fact that I'm currently listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything doesn't help - in that he talks of the earthquakes that are way overdue in Japan, including the one centred on Tokyo which will no doubt see a lot of people killed and injured.

It got me thinking though. I tend to have this idea that great cataclysmic events (ice ages, meteor strikes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions etc) are all in the past, a part of Earth's history before it settled down and enabled the current eco-system to develop.

But listening to Bryson reminds me that the Earth is no less active now than it ever has been. It still has a molten core that lets off steam now and then, it still has an atmosphere that's changing in its composition (now more than ever of course), it still suffers from tectonic shifts. We're still in this 'historical era of cataclysmic events' - it's just one of those little quiet periods at the moment.

I find this fact useful. It reminds me how important it is to live for today, and to not focus on how much 'stuff' I own. If our house comes down in rubble and goes up in smoke, the only thing that will be left is relationships with others (and a backup of my hard drive that I have permanently attached to my inner thigh, updated hourly by bluetooth). Ultimately, nothing else will matter but preserving life itself. And when life itself is finally extinguished, as it surely will be, there won't even be relationships with others to get hung up about. Best not be overly obsessed with them either then.

On a sidenote, and I forget whether I blogged this before, when we were re-negotiating our contract on this apartment, we voiced our concerns about its age and earthquake-proofness. With a smile, the agent told us:

"Well, when the big one strikes most apartments will come down anyway, so I wouldn't worry about that".


Well, that's reassuring.

The two blessing we do have is that we have a park in front of us with a huge lake (useful in case of fire), and no buildings immediately to the east or south of us, thus reducing the risk of fire and giving us soft ground to jump on should we need to. In fact we're kind of ideally situated, as the park compost heaps are directly below our balcony - perfect for soft landings.




I do love being married. Things are really good. *Twinkle* is such a blessing in my life.




As I write, iPhoto 09 - one of the applications contained in Apple's brand new iLife suite - is trawling my collection of 30,000 photos searching for faces. It's been at it for over 6 hours now, and apparently will take at least another 3 hours to pick everyone out. (That includes YOU if I've ever taken a photo of you!).

It'll then ask me to name people, and will 'learn' what people look like, the idea being that when I add new photos in the future, it will automatically identify whose in them, and apply the appropriate tags. These can be synced to and from facebook - clever huh? If someone out there tags a photo of me in Facebook, my photo library on my Macbook will be automatically updated to include it.

[Update: The facial recognition thing is pretty damn good. Having labelled about 10 photos of *Twinkle* it came up with another 900 images that it thought contained her face - and was only wrong about 30 times. Not bad for a beginner!]

The ability to group photos based on their location is also pretty nifty. If your camera is not GPS equipped, you can tag your images by searching for a place name, or by dropping a pin on the built-in Google Map. The place index is a bit too US-centered for my liking, with tonnes of results coming up for American cities, but only the 'big places' listed for other countries. No doubt that will change.

Anyway, best get on. The earthquake has inspired me to look for an Earthquake app for the iPhone, which I now need to blog about.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Taking positive action to bring about change

As many of you may know, I'm an audiobook junkie. Due to my attitude towards the use of time, reading physical paper and ink books is difficult. I feel uncomfortable using my time in that way. If friends give me books, I start to read them, but usually by the time I reach page twenty I've either decided that the book is not worth my time, or that the book is worth getting on Audible. If an audio version is not available, I either pass the book on, or keep it for those rare occasions when I feel comfortable with the idea of reading.

Anyhow, I'm lucky to have a fellow audiobook junkie here in Tokyo - someone with whom I can swap recommended listens. Recently, he recommended 'Manage your tune, Master your life' by Robin Sharma, a very short audiobook that had helped him make some positive changes. I downloaded it this morning (in addition to Obama's speech which is available for free), and listened to it whilst on the train to the city office.

In brief, Robin points out just how precious our time is, and how important it is that we do not postpone the things that matter most to us. He gives practical advice - one suggestion being to join the 5am club. Having started my own 6am club last week, I can vouch for the amazing difference it makes to have an extra hour in the morning. Whereas many people wake up and find that they are chasing their day before it's even started, if you get up that little bit earlier, you will find that not only can you get a ton of stuff done before the daily routine begins, but also that you entire day will be more orderly and productive. From experience, I'd say that's very true.

Listening to Robin's session today, I was finally compelled to do something that I've been wanting to do for about a month now but have been lacking in courage to face - quit one of my part-time teaching jobs. I love the students (and judging by the emotional scenes tonight the feeling was mutual), and found myself learning a lot through working there. But (as I mentioned last night) I've got other projects that represent my passion, and the feeling of frustration in not being able to make time to pursue them has reached epic proportions.

It was funny though. When I gave them notice this afternoon, I felt compelled to re-write my email and explain why I was quitting, and pass on some of the advice from the audiobook. I talked about 2009 being the Year of Change. I wasn't entirely sure why, I'd only ever exchanged very short emails with them about scheduling. But next thing I knew, the member of staff who deals with foreign teachers was asking me to come in a bit early - they needed to talk to me. It turned out they since last week they have been at exactly the same crossroads as me. There were further emotional scenes.

I think we humans are pretty good at knowing when we're not acting in harmony with spirit. If we practice being in touch, we can tell if a job is no longer in congruence with our true paths. But taking that next step - causing inconvenience and possibly upset, stepping into the unknown in the face of (sometimes strong) opposition from those around us, is incredibly hard sometimes. But it has to be taken if we're to move forward.

I'm glad I took that step today. In the grand scheme of things it was insignificant, but carries a lot of meaning for me as I continue on my journey.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

A new study set-up



My old study-setup

I'm very much an advocate of taking action to change one's surroundings should they not be conducive to feeling at ease. For example, a friend of mine has been having issues at work involving smoke from an adjoining (smoking) room filling her office, but rather than just complain about it she went out and bought some plastic sheets and a couple of heaters, in order to seal the gap between above the partition wall and deal with the resulting lack of hot air that was blow through by the air conditioner. She is now going to be happier in the short term, and live longer too.

My new getting-up-at-6am routine is going really well - I love it, and manage to get a tonne of stuff done in the 90 minutes extra that I have each day. Studying Japanese is the main activity. This involves me going through my electronic dictionary's history to review words I'd looked up the previous day, and transferring them to Anki and paper flash cards (sometimes an iPhone interface is just too distracting). I've also got a couple of text books to work through, oh, and I've restarted my Japanese blog.

It's appalling how much I've forgotten since I stopped studying, so the entries you'll find on there are more reminiscent of the stuff I was writing at the end of my first year at uni than what you might expect from a graduate. I'm not embarrassed about this. I know I can do better, and I know that given frequent practice I will do better.

I've decided to use my photos as the theme, writing about where / why they were taken. Simple, yet very personal to me. I like that.

It also prevents me from using the excuse that "I have nothing to write about".



Another thing I've done to encourage study is buy myself a proper desk. The Japanese-style coffee table was doing my knees / legs no good at all, and left me in quite a bit of pain if I sat there too long. Thus, I popped down to the local department store and bought a fairly cheap table, and two metres of cloth for a table cloth. I love it!

The storage shelf thing that was in this room has been moved next door, although the two sets of stationary drawers remain close at hand under the two tables.

I've also decided to stop using my MacBook as a laptop at home. By plugging in an external monitor and keyboard it's possible to use Mac laptops when they're closed - I keep it under the desk out of the way.

There are a few reasons I've done this:
  1. It gives me more space on the desk for study materials;
  2. I don't have to look at all the trailing wires emerging from my Macbook;
  3. My mind associates this monitor / keyboard with study / 'work' and not all the stuff I associate my Macbook with.


It really makes a big difference. I'm far more productive now I have a space designed for what I need to do. Kind of no-brainer really.

Anyway, it's bath-time now, then muesli, then off to the office to continue work on the new website for students. I'm using Joomla in order to ensure that the site can be updated for many years to come by people other than myself. As with Wordpress, I am staggered by the improvements Joomla has seen in recent years. A world away from the thing I dabbled with a while back!

Have a productive day!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Foreigners

Tokyo from Mori Tower_3270

Yesterday was a pretty good day. My MacBook was returned after its third major operation, and late in the afternoon I was able to spend a couple of hours on the roof of the 53-storey Mori Tower in Roppongi, watching the sun set.

It was marred by two things though, the first of which was my being told by the local pensions office that I need to pay all contributions that I missed whilst I was not working in Japan (between 2002 and and 2008). This is for a pension that I won't even be claiming due to my not being here at that age.

The second was my being told to leave a barber shop because I'm a foreigner. This took me completely by surprise. I'd gone in and asked the owner (in Japanese) if he could cut my hair despite my not having a reservation. His reaction was simply to point to the door and tell me to leave.

Confused, I asked him "Oh, aren't you open?", to which he mumbled something under his breath ...before gesturing for me to leave again.

I left. Standing outside I looked at all the signs - no, they were open. There was one customer inside, and three staff - the owner and the second staff member were sitting watching TV - waiting for customers.

So I went back in. "I'm very sorry, but could you tell me exactly why you can't cut my hair?"

The owner wouldn't look me in the eye, and just said "Please leave". I turned to the woman beside him, and asked politely, "what's the problem here?" She seemed to feel a bit awkward. Gesturing towards the owner she told me, in English (and bear in mind that I had used no English whatsoever) "We no English". Thinking that she must have learnt that line for situations such as this, I replied, in Japanese, that that wasn't an issue, as I could speak Japanese.

Silence. Then the owner told me to leave again, this time kindly opening the door to facilitate my quick exit.

Walking towards home I felt pretty pissed about this. I considered reporting them to the police, but looking at the time I decided I didn't want to waste my afternoon trying to change the opinions of others.

Since I twittered about this I've had a few comments (mostly on facebook) from others who've experienced such discrimination themselves. Whilst of course I was aware that this is by no means unknown in Japan (and think of the famous Otaru hot spring law suit in which the Supreme Court, i.e. the highest court in Japan, ruled in favour of the owner of a spa who banned customers that didn't look Japanese), I am still very surprised to find the no-foreigner policy being practiced here in the centre of Tokyo.

Tonight, I'm going to get my hair cut by a friend. He is not afraid of gaijin lice.

[Update] A recent article on this subject in the Japan Times has gained widespread attention. Check it out here.

Also, see Black Tokyo's take on the article.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaijin Bubble - Being a good husband - Taking action

himonya sunset _2475

Sunset from our front door

The intense feeling of 'being a foreigner' is starting to fade. These past few weeks there have been several occasions when I've been out and about, and completely forgotten that I'm a member of the 2%(ish) minority population of non-Japanese residents in Japan.

Upon arrival back in Japan last September I often found myself thinking about how the Japanese person serving me at the supermarket might be perceiving me, or wondering whether I was being spoken to in deliberately gaijin-friendly Japanese at the bank. Having been away from the islands for over a year I found I'd regressed to those times when I didn't understand Japanese at all, when I perceived myself as a nail sticking out. I was very much in Japan, and I felt it keenly whenever I stepped outside the door.

It would seem though that after about 4 months I'm becoming acclimatised. The areas of Tokyo I frequent (mostly Gakugeidaigaku, Shibuya and Kudanshita) and those areas outside Tokyo I infrequent (Saitama to see my in-laws) are no longer overwhelmingly 'Japan', they're just 'home'.

I think part of the reason for this is I can now get by with very little effort in any of these places. Initially, going from A to B, buying such-and-such in such-and-such a shop required planning, thought, and conscious effort. Now I can walk and shop in these places without thinking. I usually use my time spent walking checking blogs, writing emails and studying Kanji. Unless I'm somewhere that will stimulate my senses (such as a park or an area of notable architecture/interesting people) I don't like to not be doing something else whilst walking.

I appreciate that this must seem a bit sad. Walking around eyes glued to the screen. But I don't see it like this. Not only do I get enourmous pleasure from following the antics of my friends, acquaintances and role models around the world, but I also give myself the freedom to use my time at home (when I would otherwise be checking blogs etc) to do things that are far more constructive. I'm the kind of person that can waste hours and hours watching mindless crap on YouTube - I know I have this weakness and so have created a web usage technique for myself that prevents my doing this - it's called using an RSS reader (NetNewsWire to be precise) on the iPhone. It discourages endless link-clicking, thus I limit myself to about 250 web-based stories a day (over half of which I only read the first line of).

Hmm, seem to have gone down a rathole there. The magnetism of the iPhone. It draws you in no matter how far away you started off. All Mumbles lead to the iPhone...

Anyway back to my gaijin bubble then, that thing that makes the difference between being in Japan surrounded by Japanese people and being on planet Earth surrounded by human people.

My gaijin bubble is thinning out. Gaps are appearing in its liquid walls. I'm finding myself interacting directly with the people around me without any awareness of there being any difference / barrier between us.

And it's awareness that's the key. When I recently spoke to someone about the fading of the film, I found that in that instant, just by voicing this 'fact', the film became even more translucent.

It's all my perception.

I know this. I've always known it, only a lot of the time I choose not to acknowledge it.



Recently I've been pretty down on myself regarding my Japanese ability. It was just before New Year that it hit me hardest. I'm not sure what brought it on, but it's likely to have been my experience at the office, as that's where I struggle the most with clear communication. Thus, New Year at the in-laws saw a pretty quiet Joseph, a passive participant. I surprised myself.

I decided to stop that this morning. I decided that I could speak Japanese, and that I was actually pretty good at it. It shouldn't have come as any surprise then when a couple of hours later I found myself watching Joseph explain to a colleague, in Japanese, the workings of the new database (new as of this morning when I completed phase one of the merger of my new Access database with an existing Access databases - the two miraculously agreed to talk with each other).

Hey, I'm not that bad at Japanese after all. I just thought I was pants. That's pretty cool. What else can I think into existence?

Ah yes, the problematic relationship with that colleague. How about a resolution? Hey presto! at 3.30pm it was solved, the problematic relationship made a 360 degree turn. It wouldn't have happened had I not decided that there was ultimately no problem between us.

I'm currently on my second listen of The New Psycho-cybernetics, which I'm finding very inspiring [what is psycho-cybernetics?]. I've Mumbled about it before, and I'll say again what I said then: there's nothing in this book that you haven't read in The Secret or any of Anthony Robbins' books. Nonetheless, I like the approach, and it motivates me to act. It's this book that has encouraged me to shift my perception of things like my gaijin bubble or 'lack of Japanese language skills'.




This past week has (not unsurprisingly) seen an abundance of blog posts containing reviews of 2008. I considered writing one myself, but decided that it'll be easier to get someone else to do that for me when I can afford to outsource the revamp of my website and the drafting of my autobiography :-) But still, I found other people's reviews pretty thought provoking. Some were in the form of meme's, encouraging the authors to not only list what they had achieved, but also to detail how they thought they'd changed over the previous 12 months (for example, see this one by my friend the talking orchid).


This got me thinking about how I've grown over the past 12 months. Of course, marriage has been the biggy for me, and I must say the last 4 months since the wedding have taught me a lot about myself that I didn't necessarily want to know. I'm fortunate to live in an age in which emotional intelligence is considered a great asset and not some feminine weakness, and thus I am encouraged to act on bringing my behaviour back in alignment with what I know is ultimately right, rather than what is merely considered 'ok' by society at large. *Twinkle* has no complaints, I've not been a bad husband, but I know I can be a better husband. There have been times when I have held my love back when I have (unreasonably) felt threatened or undermined by her behaviour. She deserves my love and support at all times, no exceptions.

I'm also glad I had a few 'serious' relationships before meeting her. I recall times when, if challenged, I would only be able to rest when my partner was feeling thoroughly wretched.

How horrendous is that?

However, whilst of course I am very sorry to have hurt my partners I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to learn in situations where the stakes weren't quite so high, thus *Twinkle* doesn't have to put up with all that kind of crap (it's not a path I recommend though. If possible just be perfect from birth).

Anyway, It's taken New Year to make me act on this one. It's only too easy to get into sloppy patterns of behaviour. Once in that rut one can forget what life was like when one was free, acting in accordance with high-energy spirit. The effort required to 'be nice' when one really doesn't want to be nice isn't actually an effort at all, as the benefits (which are soon felt) are so great they act like helium balloons, pulling you up. The only effort is in making that initial decision.

This reminds me of Wayne Dyer's work - he often speaks of high and low energy cycles. (There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem is one I often mention - I reccomend the audio from Audible)

Going back to changes seen during 2008, I'm also happy to have seen a considerable progress in my dealing with fear, although I don't see last year as having been the real milestone - that's this year when I begin to act with courage in the light of firmer foundations. My self-image still needs considerable work. I'm far too fearful down on myself if I really want to realise many of the dreams I have.

Ironically, by stating these things I'm only making the situation worse. It's time for an end to 'recognising' things. Whilst recognition is the first step, it alone will not bring about any change.

OK. so let's make 2009 the year of Action Without Fear.

You might think it silly to have to label a year like that. But I'm greatly encouraged by such statements. I love words. I love quotes. I even have an online collection of them at http://thanks.tumblr.com (although I've not added to it recently).

I only have one excuse left now.

I haven't got time.

That's a load of rubbish too though. Look at me, I've just spent two hours sitting at the kitchen table mumbling.

Many of my goals are related to online ventures. In the past week I've taken positive steps towards establishing 3 of them, doing things like purchasing domain names, contacting web hosts, and building a prototype site.

I've also taken action towards resurrecting the student of Japanese within me, by sorting out my various Anki databases.

Today, I made enquiries about taking time off work in order that I can dedicate a day or two a month to making these things happen, and that's a distinct possibility.

I'm going to keep a record of action taken, and review it on a weekly basis. I need to do this to keep myself moving forward.

Anyway, I'd best be off to bed, I'm doing another photo shoot at the nail salon in Shibuya tomorrow night, and need to figure out what I'll be doing for backdrops.

tatta.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Plans for 2009

Meet your teachers: George and I warm up for our telephone English lessons

George and I at work

Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They'll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji - cleanup - traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.

I've chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house - we've decided that we'll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we'd rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we'd put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn't make sense. It's an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It's partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).

I'm really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I'm feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I've desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He's crazy. Crazy George.

I'd also like to redesign The Daily Mumble - move it over to Wordpress 2.7 - but that's going to have to wait. I'm seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.

Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company - an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I'm excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.

I'm getting real excited about 2009. I feel it's going to be a great year.

2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I've started exercising regularly, I've got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.

I've continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.

I've also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one's productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.

I think finishing uni helped too...!

Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband - when I'm tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn't have to be.

I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.

I don't really have any goals in terms of ownership - it's experiences and personal development that matter, not owning 'things'. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they'll have to wait until 2010).

I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress - and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I'll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is 'right', and resisting attempted coups by my ego.

Hmmm, it's all pretty exciting really!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thought on New Years resolutions

ri-kun the tortoise_2245

Ri-kun on the tatami

I finished reading Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" this evening. [Wikipedia] [official site]. The New York Times accurately described it as "much more of a political document. Portions of the volume read like outtakes from a stump speech, and the bulk of it is devoted to laying out Mr. Obama’s policy positions on a host of issues, from education to health care to the war in Iraq."

Whilst it might sound like it would be a right yawn for someone like me who has little interest in politics, I liked it a lot (although admittedly, I did fast-forward through some chapters that in which he talked in detail about the US political process). It served to give me a feel for Obama as a person, and I must say, he seems to be a bloomin' nice chap. I also found myself thinking that I'm like his wife, Michelle, in some ways.

I'm now listening to 'Tribes' by Seth Godin, which focuses upon marketing in the age of Twitter and Facebook. It's received mixed reviews, with some people noting that it just reads like a load of blog posts, that there's nothing new in it and that it lacks depth. All true perhaps, but that doesn't bother me. As someone very much interested in the uses of social networking services in marketing / creating communities / building businesses, I find it fascinating - and inspiring too. There's a fair amount of inspirational stuff in it that can be found in many other 'You can do it' books - but I need to hear this.

I am an ideas person, but I fear putting my ideas into action. Ideas for a publishing company. Ideas for a Penguin business. Every day, lots of ideas.

I think much of this fear stems from a fear of what others may think of me, a fear that is utterly ridiculous and serves no useful purpose in my life - it only holds me back. It kind of p*sses me off really.

I know I've come a long way, but I could do so much better. The fact is that those people who really know me know that I'm a good, trustworthy person - with flaws. Thus, they forgive me my errors in judgement and continue to support me, in return for my support and love of them. I don't need to fear losing those who are precious to me (they include all of my friends).

But what of those who think I'm stupid, misguided or deceitful, and then treat me with contempt? I'm scared of being treated with contempt.

But that's ridiculous. Looking back over the past 15 years or so, I can't think of a single occasion when someone important to me has treated me with genuine contempt. Why do I even entertain these ideas? I'm a good person, I know I am, and I don't need to have these fears.

These past few days I have begun mulling over my New Year's resolutions for 2009. One that I've been considering is 'Action without Fear'.

Crikey. That's a bit scary.

The thing is, there's no point in making such a resolution unless I act on it. That will require a conscious effort on a daily basis. I think if I do adopt it, it will need to be classed as an 'experiment' limited to a period of say, 3 months (long enough to see tangible results?), with regular progress reviews built in. You might think that overkill, but when it comes to things that are uncomfortable and require self-motivated/self-enforced persistence, I need to use all the tools available to me to succeed. (Look at me with my iPhone and Jogging schedule).

I also recognise that I need a tangible goal to aim for. It could be having my photos on public display, generating a certain amount of income from Amway, registering a certain number of artists with Three Seeds - it could include all three, and of course more.

I think 'change' will be the key word for 2009. I, like everyone else on Earth, am afforded the opportunity to change almost any aspect of my life every single day, yet I fail to appreciate that most of the time. I subjugate myself to the status quo - it's easier that way.

But that's not good enough! I have a responsibility to be the best that I can be.

No, I shouldn't need a New Year to make changes, but I don't feel strong enough to act alone at the moment. The calendar will be my ally.

Anyway, it's time for bed. We're having our Christmas Day tomorrow as it's a national holiday (emperor's birthday) - everyone is able to gather at the family home just north of Tokyo. Excited!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Purpose



My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young

Personally, I'm yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I've not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.

But I can feel it's just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it's just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan - the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.

I'm very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki's idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the 'Cashflow Quadrant'. They are: E - employees, S - self-employed, B - business owners and I - investors.

(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki's incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)

I've long had a gut feeling that I don't belong in the 'employee' quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in 'secure' jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.

If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I'd just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I'm heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).

Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can't get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.

Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don't feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I'm learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.

So then there's the S quadrant - self-employed. One thing I've been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, there's the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there's the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise - an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn't have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.

Then we move across to the B quadrant - the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy ...but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It's easier to just be told what to do.

The final quadrant - our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and 'normal' people you could hope to meet, and don't give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.




These past few weeks I've been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It's very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there's not much in it that you haven't heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.

...and it really gets you thinking - "If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?" If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there's clearly a need for action.

It's compelling. Real change doesn't take months of years, it takes a split second - the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).

I'm in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It's called life, and it's time I took the next step (even if it's only a small step). I'll write about it in due course.

night.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai, my job, and babymaking

I don't think I could ever get bored with life. There's just too much going on.

For a start, there's events in the news. I don't follow the news religiously, but I have recently subscribed to the Guardian feed on my iPhone - I scroll through the headlines on my way home to keep abreast of world events that my students may refer to. It's not entertainment, but it does push me into a different space, changes the context within which I live. Things today are different from how they were yesterday.

I'm finding it difficult to put the horrific events in Mumbai into context, as I have not known this sort of thing before outside of Hollywood movies.

Then there's Bangkok airport, temporary home to my friends Catherine, Stew and Annie. They tell me they're safe at least, which is a relief. My brother-in-law, Leigh, who lives here in Japan is also stuck out there - I reckon he's secretly happy to be able to extend his business trip into a holiday (Leigh is quite an inspiration for me, having come here a few years back for the first time with nothing, and having established his own successful football academy has now created a second company that is contracted by Nike to provide coaching clinics throughout Japan).

A meeting was held at work today. There are big changes afoot in our office. The departure of a fairly central employee has prompted a major overhaul of the way the business is run. Whilst I was initially hired to search for / interview / place new teachers, it's now been decided that my 'talents' are needed elsewhere. Whilst initially surprised as the announcement, I soon realised that this was a very good thing.

My new roles suit me down to the ground. I have several.

The first is teaching English over the phone. As as far as I know we are almost unique within the industry for offering this service. Whilst it can be quite exhausting (8 students per hour) I find it pretty enjoyable - it helps me practice my communication skills - I get to play the game "How quickly can I suss this person out and connect with them?". I feel really good when it's clear the students have enjoyed talking with me.

My second role is that of The Cleaner. We're not talking dusty shelves or dirty carpets (a little old lady comes in everyday to do that. She always asks me if I've got over the cold I had last month), we're talking stripping down and cleaning out the old systems/ workflows, and rebuilding them using a lean model. We're talking clearing out data archives, transferring operations currently carried out manually / using real paper to semi-automatic self-cleaning databases.

I love this kind of thing. It's kind of funny, but at the same time sort of expected that a job be created especially for me that involves my doing what I love.

My third role, and this one's a little more long term, is to revolutionise our web presence. We need to embrace mobile platforms, need to harness the power of these new technologies that will allow students to study wherever they happen to be - I can't help but think how effective iAnki is in giving me the freedom to fit study in with my everyday routine, with no significant additional impact upon my schedule (it's really working by the way. Amazing program).

I find this all very exciting - I'm going to get paid to learn about and experiment with new systems that I have a natural interest in already. The only difficulty is in fitting all this in - there's only so many hours in the day. Thus, I've been given the go ahead to work overtime whenever I wish too, paid at overtime rate. This is great, just what we need as we save up more money to move house. I'll start tomorrow.

This evening I met up with a bunch of boy-mates for a 'boys night out'. All eight of us have Japanese wives. Except for me, everyone had been married for several years.

At one point the conversation turned to baby-making. "Oh no, you're not having to go through that are you..?" said one boymate to another. "You're lucky" they said to me. Sex is still for fun for you, right? For us, it's just a job, only to be done when the wife is 'on heat'."

It all sounded a bit mechanical.

I wondered if that would be *Twinkle* and I in 2 years. I hoped not.

Anyway, it's now 1.15am. I need to get these photos processed before work tomorrow. TTFN

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Chasing Bubbles all weekend

bubble chase scene_1014

It's been a great weekend. A bit manic at times, but thoroughly enjoyable, and productive too. I've had two private lessons, spent a couple of hours taking over 300 photos in Yoyogi park (the vast majority of which I've yet to develop - will save that treat for later in the week - photos in this post are from the Bubble-chasing scene), went to a fantastic Indian music gig (amazing sitar player) (thanks Tom), made a cake, made apple crumble (thanks Tom!), did a successful photo shoot for our Yoga-teacher friend, was asked to do a photo-shoot for a nail salon next Saturday, jogged 10 kilometres, helped host & iTunes DJ a Christmassy party attended by 20 friends (using iPhone as a remote control for the Mac enabling me to change the playlist as I did the drying up :-) ), started another blog (to save Mumblers from iPhone overload - yet to put any new content on it though), studied Japanese (Yay Anki & iAnki!), banged nails into walls, rearranged the furniture in *Twinkle*s 'office' (that was at about 1am Sunday), walked home with my shoes full of water having left them out in rain...

bubble chase scene_0962

bubble chase scene_0972

There's so many things I'd like to do but making time is a challenge.

I'm glad I'm really enjoying my full time job because otherwise I'd be mightily peeved about having to spend 9-10 hours a day putting energy into increasing someone else's profits, profits that might possibly be being used for a cause that I wouldn't necessarily choose to support.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

This and that all over the place

As usual, this post will probably be all over the place. There's so many things I've wanted to write about, each wanting it's own mumble, but I can't see that happening for a while. Here's what's on my mind tonight in any case.




ANKI

My learning is taking off all over again with Anki - an amazingly simple yet effective program that uses spaced repetition to help you remember stuff, whether it be a language, people's names, or a cake recipe.

It's like having a pack of digital flashcards, with you choosing what goes on either side. You can access them on your computer, on any other computer with an Internet connection, and on any Internet-enabled mobile device (such as a bog standard moderm mobile phone). They all sync, so any changes made through one interface will be recognised in others.

I'm using Anki on my Mac to input new words, phrases and people's names, and then reviewing them on my iPhone on the trains. Incidentally, an update for iAnki (the mobile version) was released today.

Anki is FREE, but I would encourage anyone who ends up using it to make a donation to support the developer, Damien.




AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: The New Psycho-Cybernetics (Unabridged)

by Maxwell Maltz, edited by Dan S. Kennedy, available from Audible.co.uk or Amazon (etc)

Ok, so this isn't a proper review, as this is the Daily Mumble. It's just my thoughts on what I've heard so far of this 11-hour audio book.

First off, this classic from the 1960s reminds me of many other books that focus upon the power within us to shape our lives and reach any heights we might care to aim for. Anyone familiar with Anthony Robbins will recognise a lot of what Maltz talks about. Likewise, if you bought the video / audio / book of The Secret, you'll be 'know' this stuff, albeit with a lot more bells and whistles ...and over-acting, and elephants in people's houses.

Despite being familiar with much of what is talked about in the book, I'm finding myself absolutely engrossed. It's very refreshing to look at this stuff from a clinical point of view. It 'makes sense'. I spent three hours listening to the first few chapters whilst making chocolate cake and curry last night, and over the course of the evening felt a physical change come over me as I started to let go of some pretty ridiculous beliefs.

I feel I've gone backwards in the past few months when it comes to letting go of what's not important. My control tendencies have reared their ugly head as I battle to find some firm ground in this new life. With these tendencies has come stress, which serves absolutely no useful purpose other then decreasing my effectiveness in all sorts of ways.

I especially like this new version as it contains a lot of references to modern-day events, thus making it feel relevant.

I'll be listening to this book a lot over the next month, and putting what I learn into practice.

If you're interested in this book I'd suggest reading some 'proper' reviews rather than buy it on the strength of my recommendation.

Incidentally, I was very happy today to see that my manager has bought a set of Lock and Lock Tuppa based on my recommendation. Yay, changing lives!




Work is getting pretty busy now. Much of today was spent designing a poster for an upcoming teaching EXPO - I was chosen for the job as it was apparent that I 'like computers'. The resulting poster (based on an Apple iWork Pages template) went down a treat, and is also going to be used internally as an example of 'what is possible'. One step closer towards persuading the company to ditch their PCs in favour of Macs. :-)

I'm enjoying building relationships with my colleagues. I took another chocolate cake into work today - I needed to trial a new recipe in the saucepan-baked cake series, and thought it a good opportunity to encourage friendship-growth. It turned out really well, oh, and also gave me the opportunity to apologise properly to someone whom I could have offended pretty badly yesterday. The team were trying to come up with a nickname for me, and started throwing the name 'Joe'+ending around. The Japanese girl next to me, who also happens to be called Jo, asked me what I thought of the name. I was trying to explain how much I disliked being called "Joe" (as I was up until the age of 22 ish), although I think it's a great name for other people (I know a lot of Jo(e)s!), but inadvertently said to her,

"Actually, I really don't like Joe" which, due to the way in which names are used in Japan, came across as "Actually, I really don't like you".

The whole office went silent ...before laughter broke out. I was so embarrassed I literally ran away, hiding in my little phone cubicle at the other end of the office for a couple of hours (marking essays).

As my move into my HR position approaches (I take over recruitment at the beginning of December) so my lack of business-Japanese becomes more apparent. I find it astonishing just how little confidence I have using Japanese in business situations versus everyday social situations. I must continue to fight the urge to slip back into English when feeling frustrated by a lack of vocab in the office.

My weekly Japanese lesson is helping (as is Anki). Whilst my lesson may only be one hour every Thursday its effect lasts for the whole week. Knowing that I am 'actively studying Japanese' encourages me to carry my electronic dictionary around with me, to look up words when on the go, to ask people to explain stuff that I don't understand. It's vital for me that I remain an active learner.




The increased use of RSS feeds by blog-writing friends, combined with iPhone's Facebook and Twitter Apps is having a pretty strong impact upon my feeling of being connected with friends near and far. I'm now subscribed to 53 blogs written by people I actually know, with about half of them being updated on a regular basis. I love being allowed to share in their experiences. I learn from them. I'm inspired by them. I'm moved by them.

There are some amazing people out there
who are facing some very difficult challenges. RSS brings the part of their lives that they choose to share into my news reader inbox, allowing me to think of them throughout the day as I go about my business.

I like having access to Facebook when out and about too (enjoying commenting on items in the newsfeed) - good to see that Twitter's slowly gaining momentum as well.




My MacBook's hardrive has been running out of space recently, but I'll have to wait until January for Toshiba's new 500GB 2.5inch drive to be released. Thus, a few days back I moved all of my music from my internal hard disk to an external drive. This then necessitated the resetting of my iTunes library - playlists, ratings, last played status etc. all back to factory default (i.e. gone)

What a refreshing change! If like me you find yourself listing to the same music again and again due to the way your library has evolved, I thoroughly recommend making a fresh start. I'm discovering all sorts of music I never even knew I had, bloomin marvellous. I love music.

I love Bloom too. Anyone in need of relaxation (and in posession of an iPhone or iPod touch) needs it. Oh, and those of us in Japan - Ekitan (available in the Japanese App store) now uses GPS to find the station you're travelling from, whilst Google Mobile App has voice recognition for some very funny search results. Maybe my accent is just too British... Oh, and 'Japanese' (a dictionary) DOES support handwritten kanji input - enable the Chinese handwriting keyboard.




Tokyo's getting bloody cold now, and our house is absolutely freezing. (they've has a load of snow in North Japan this week) I've finally succumbed to using the air-conditioner for about 15 mins before bead. Need to get some indoor gloves.

Anyway, best get some kip.

night night.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Overly content?

A reoccurring theme for discussion in my head is one that revolves around being content.

You see, I believe that it is important to be content with today's life, because there is no tomorrow. And thus, I generally feel very content.

Yet, I can feel that this feeling of contentness is perhaps holding me back, in that I lack serious frustrations with my lot today to motivate me to push myself forward.

I have small motivations - for example, an inability to communicate my thoughts on the new database with my boss has pushed me back to study ...yet I feel I don't feel a general discontent with my situation in general.

Perhaps I've thought and felt myself into a corner.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Laser eyes, the work, the friends and the MCs

You find me sitting in the waiting room at the Shinagawa Laser Eye Clinic in central Tokyo. ...feeling queasy. *Twinkle* has just been taken up to the 15th floor to have her eyes done, leaving me in the big waiting room on the floor below, stuck in front of a TV showing an instructional video on what's going to be done to her. I find it positively terrifying, but try and reassure myself by thinking of all the people we know who have had it done lately, and how they could 'see' immediately after the op, and made full recoveries within a day or two of being fried. It's pretty affordable too (about £700 paid interest-free over two years) - well worth it considering the difference it will make to her daily life.

Anyhow, I need to try and take my mind off it, so let's talk about something else.

Mr. Joseph the Teacher

I've had a fair bit of part-time work since I got back to Japan. The vast majority of it has been through the English school in Shibuya, where most classes are taught one-on-one. Many students are there to learn English for a particular purpose (usually a business trip to the US/ Australia etc); this makes lesson planning and execution a lot easier (especially with the additional ideas and support I've received from my friend Shari). I also have a couple of private students I meet in quiet cafes. Also, today I had a successful interview for a long-term part time contract teaching weekly group lessons at an American firm's Tokyo office.

My full-time job starts Monday; looking forward to that.

Joseph the househusband

Outside of paid work I've been pretty busy with housework and 'admin'. With our marriage came the need to change *Twinkle*s details on accounts of all kinds, then there was the house move, changes in insurance policies, a new Internet contract, misplaced tax bills, lost bank books, forgotten online banking passwords and so forth. When I finally received my gaijin card (foreigner's ID card) I had to update all my accounts with the new address. There's not much left to do ...just need to get my Japanese driver's license I think.

I find sorting these kind of things out really satisfying. Perhaps it's the control freak in me, wanting order in my life. I like to have a clear picture in my head of what policies we have where and what's due when - it enables me to get on and concentrate on the important stuff.

The house is also starting to feel comfortable. Latest additions include a plant, and 2 x 780yen plastic stationary sets of drawers. They have CHANGED MY LIFE. I now have a whole drawer dedicated to pens, and another to scrap paper, with the other four also having their own unique role. With the arrival of the drawers, so we see the departure of the living out of boxes (except for the other cupboard.

I've also cleared out all the salad crops from the tubs on the balcony, except for the aubergine plants which are still producing. Bought ten tulip bulbs and look forward to planting them and watching them shoot. I'd like to plant some winter crops too - any ideas dad?

I'm getting better at making bread in the wok, although still need to experiment a bit more to get it good and crusty (by applying water and flour to the surface) without deflating it post-rise. I'm also enjoying making simple things like fruit salad (little known in Japan) and potato salad. Nothing too ambitious, but very healthy, tasty, nutritious and rewarding nonetheless.

We're pretty much completely vegetarian at home now. We might get a bit of chicken in when guests come to visit, but other than that we feel really good without any meat. I'm really grateful to *Twinkle* for being so accommodating (although it hadn't been a request of mine).

Joseph's foreign friends

I've really enjoyed having quite a lot of contact with my friend Tom (who lives pretty near us in Meguro-ku) - I can see the weekly Sunday morning jogs around the Imperial Palace becoming a long-term part of my routine. They're almost therapeutic. It's good being in phone contact with Stu as well - our schedules at the moment mean that I've seen a lot less of him than I'd like to have done. Hopefully we can work something out so we can ensure that life doesn't get in the way of communication.

That's something I missed in the UK - male (and to a certain extent female) friends whom I could talk to about pretty much anything. I think perhaps it's being in Japan that has enabled me to develop these friendships which otherwise might not have come to much, as I'm usually much more inclined to hang out with and talk to women. Here, we have shared challenges / experiences, and I think it's these that served as a foundation upon which the friendships have been built.

I've found that marrying *Twinkle* has led to a stronger sense of kinship on my part towards both Tom and Stu, both of whom have Japanese wives. Whilst our relationships are all very different, we all have our challenges at times, and it helps to be able to share these things.

It's only in writing this now that I appreciate just how much it means to me to have foreign friends in Tokyo. Last week, *Twinkle* and I visited two young 'old colleagues' of mine from the place of work I'll be returning to next week after six years away. I've not seen them in years, although I must say that due to the communication we've had via our blogs it didn't seem like a case of 'long time no see' at all. Alongside pizza we were treated to Shari's delicious homemade hummus. I tell you, it was fantastic, the genuine article, certainly didn't expect to find myself indulging in that here in Japan.

Anyhow, food aside, it was lovely to spend time with them and chat about this and that. They are the kind of people in whose presence it is hard not to feel relaxed (something which no doubt plays a part in their popularity as teachers); it felt good sharing 'stuff' with them, and I wondered to what extent our all being foreign played a part in creating such an atmosphere.

Ogura san, our homeless friend

I'm continuing to work on extending my social circle, which is currently distinctly square shaped. I've joined the Vegan Runners Club and Toastmasters, so should be giving them both a shot later this month. *Twinkle* and I meanwhile have been trying to open up our house a little more, now it's relatively organised (only one cupboard left to go). We've had a few visitors, including our homeless friend who sells the Big Issue in Shibuya, who came to supper the other night accompanied by another member of his support group of which we are members. As I mentioned in a previous post, he's a really interesting guy - now in his 50s, he owned his own company until someone else's business for which he had acted as a guarantor went belly up, resulting in him losing everything overnight.

Business, income, house, wife and child, all gone, just like that.

He often says that he can hardly believe that he's now homeless. He never even dreamt of the possibility. It's unfortunate that in Japan homeless people have the odds stacked against them: in addition to the discrimination they face, with no fixed abode they are not entitled to government assistance. Without government assistance it can be hard to find work that will generate an income sufficient to maintain a small home - it's a vicious circle.

He's now working to set up an NPO to support people like himself. It's hard though. Whilst Big Issue sales might generate enough for him to afford to stay in an Internet cafe overnight, it's not enough to lift him out of the hole he's in, thus his ability to move forward is hampered by a need to provide for today.

Despite all this, he's incredibly positive, with a similar outlook upon life as myself. We're working to try and promote the work he's doing and hope to have him speak at an event that we're organising for next month.

Ogura san can be found most days on the East side of Shibuya station.

MCs *Twinkle* and Tame

Speaking of events (and as mentioned before) *Twinkle* and are scheduled to MC at a meeting for 500 business-minded people in their twenties on Saturday. The aim is to encourage them to pursue their dreams (whatever they may be), and not just follow the crowd into jobs in which they have little interest, but feel they 'ought' to take. We have a few fairly high-profile speakers lined up whose names I forget. There's a nice article on one of them in this month's 'Free and Easy' Magazine featuring him camping in the Japanese outback, Ray Mears stylee.

I'm a bit nervous about that, as it's all going to be in Japanese, and I don't really know what I'm supposed to say or do.

Whether we will end up MCing or not I'm not quite sure. Since beginning this blog 5 hours ago we've returned to *Twinkle*s family home, and her eyes are now causing her an awful lot of pain follow the surgery. Thankfully she seems to be sleeping now; hopefully she'll be feeling better by tomorrow morning.

iPhone Update

The iPhone remains my darling. The new Facebook app is absolutely fantastic, taking advantage of the iPhone's distinct characteristics and putting on a pretty slick show, a great example of what a mobile app can be. I look forward to the other apps I have also being updated to more reflect rhe iPhone style rather than just feeling like ported versions of apps for other platforms.

It's also proving its worth whilst we have no broadband. For example, without the iPhone I wouldn't have got the job that I got today. That'll more than pay for the monthly contract.

However, I do find the iPhone's lack of an audio / vibration alert for new emails to be a bit of a pain, especially when *Twinkle* and I are carrying out a text conversation. Thus, I've bought a second mobile which does make a noise, and which also happens to give me free calls and sms to not only *Twinkle* but to all of my in-laws, and vice-versa.

When will Japanese carriers allow SMS to be sent cross-network me wonders?

My new phone basically uses the same OS as my old mobile, so hasn't required any brain power to make it work. I'm very impressed by the new predictive text function though, just amazing. Shame the iPhone can't match it when it comes to Japanese.

Anyhows, that about sums it up for now. As you can see, we're pretty busy, but things are good, very good.

oyasumi xxx

[EDIT] Happy to report that the patient has just woken up and CAN SEE! They were right when they said it would just be painful for a few hours - what an amazing thing the human body is!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Photos from the local area, Saucepan Scenario and our Big Issue Friend

Woke up early feeling a little sad today. I wasn't sure why, but I was sure I didn't want to feel sad for the rest of the day, so I quietly snuck out as *Twinkle* slept, and wandered the surrounding streets, camera in hand.

Here's a few of the shots, interspersed with tales from today.


Home grown aubergines outside our door

homegrown aubergine_9565

street cleaning_9623

This evening I had an interview for an agency that's recruiting teachers for the ex-NOVA schools that were bought up by C-communication. I didn't know this until I reached the office - it had been difficult to ascertain exactly what the deal was when arranging the interview via email. It was all conducted in Japanese, and I really enjoyed it once I realised that it paid far too little for me to consider. CELTA was once again highlighted by the interviewers as one of the main reasons they'd contacted me in the first place - it's good to know that it has an impact in the real world recruitment.

I'll email them tomorrow to let them know that whilst I can't teach for them, I'm more than happy to be a proofreader - boy could their website do with it!

turtle_9620

Made another beautiful loaf of wok-baked bread today, even if I do say so myself. We recently found 6 brand new jars of jam that were two years out of date in a friend's fridge and offered to eat them - they really are yummy yummy.

names_9602

Tonight had a bit of a cooking conundrum - how to get the lid off a saucepan? Two years ago we invested in a set of proper saucepans that should outlive us. They have an amazing ability to keep moisture in (means you can cook most vegees with just a few drops of water, boil an egg just by placing it on a piece of dampened kitchen paper - I thought that was a joke until I did it myself), but as soon as the temperature in the pan drops a vacuum is created, clamping the lid down.

It's not normally a big problem: the lid will come off without much effort. But tonight I'd put too much rice into the pan, and for some scientific reason this made the vacuum extra-extra strong once I'd switched the gas off.

We battled for no less than 20 minutes to lift the lid off the pan! The vacuum was so strong there was no way it would shift. Banging it from the side as hard as I could made no impression on it, and pouring boiling water over it didn't help either. In the end we had to put it back on the cooker for a further 10 mins, and only then did it shift. Still, I thought it was a good advert for the pan's airlock feature.

panda ride_9587

I bought a beautiful Guatemalan wallet today in the little hippy shop in Shibuya. Ooh it is so lovely. Made me so happy.

morning flower_9569

After that we met up with our homeless friend who sells the Big Issue outside Shibuya Station. *Twinkle* befriended him a few months ago, and we often stop to chat with him. He's a really nice chap, used to own his own company. There's quite a large community of people that are trying to help him get back in his feet; we'll all meet up at the weekend to get to know one another.

butterfly_9629

Anyway, best get on. Got another trial lesson tomorrow, which I hope won't turn into a counselling session. I've been feeling a bit 'used' by doing these trial lessons, and am considering changing my part-time employment strategy.

Ho hum, tatta.

xxx

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Meeting with my past

It was good to see my brother and his partner in Devon. There hadn’t really been time to catch up at the wedding; it was important we do that before I leave. I’m so glad I made the trip down there.

Likewise with my older sister, whom I met up with here in Bristol at lunchtime. I’m so proud of her doing what she’s doing.

Tonight I’m staying in Garfield Villa, the house I lived in for over a year following my return from Japan in 2003.

It’s funny being back here. The house and its lovely occupants take me back to that time.

I find myself becoming the person I was then. If you’d asked me yesterday if I was very different 5 years ago, I would have said no, not really. But ask me tonight, and the answer is a definite yes, I really have changed.

I actually find it quite disturbing to come face-to-face with the Joseph of five years ago. He’s a bit of an egotistical twat, to put it politely. He was a Joseph who cared a lot about the opinion of others, and actively sought to entertain. I feel he lacked confidence in himself, and sought to hide behind a mask of humour - and enjoyed being seen as a boundary pusher.

This was also the Joseph who desperately wanted a girlfriend, and actively sought a partner using dating websites, and getting close to friends’ friends. He had quite a few disastrous ‘encounters’, all of which become anecdotes told at parties, the bearded farmer one being the most famous.

I’m not ashamed of that Joseph: it was a necessary part of my growth, but I do feel uncomfortable taking on that character now. Reflecting on what happened tonight, I can clearly see just how much I have changed since 2003, how my internal reactions to identical stimuli (separated by time) are very different.

So in a way, it’s comforting. It’s comforting to know that there has been change. But I also feel badness inside that I wasn’t able to assert myself.

It’s also made me wonder what would have happened had I not gone to university, had I not started work on my spiritual life, had I not met *Twinkle*. I think for me, the act of physically moving to different places and meeting many different people, being exposed to different ideas, has contributed an awful lot to my growth. So that begs the question - does growth now take a back seat to financial necessity and the comfort of routine?

Of course not. But I feel that the end of this era of regular ‘forced change’ does mean that I will need to now put in a good deal more effort to actively continue learning and growing. Yes, I think the challenges of living in Japan as a foreigner will to some extent provide fuel for further growth as a matter of course, but that won’t be enough. It’s important that I continue to engage with life on a daily basis, and not get complacent.

I find that idea exciting, yet scary too. Thursday really is a big day. It’s not just a flight to Japan, it’s the start of what I think will be one of the most challenging periods of my life to date.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Amazing Adventure

Amazing day. A true adventure.

Following 20 hours of non-stop activity I am pretty out of it, but I'd like to note down a few things from today that really struck me as pretty damn wonderful.

It all started at 6am, I'm up to drive to the kitchen at the community centre where the sushi is prepared. 6.30am, I'm at our first outlet, stocking their fridge. I met them for the first time two weeks ago. We see each other for 5 minutes three times a week, so that means I've spent 30 minutes with them in total.

Today, they ask me about Japan - what's it like teaching there? That's a great conversation, all three of us fully engaged as the salmon wraps go on the top shelf and California Sunrise below. The owner's sister-in-law worked there - yeah, loved it! Maybe we'll move out there when the lease on this place expires! I leave there feeling really happy. Things are good.

At 7am I'm at the third outlet. We chat too. I like him. He picks me up on little errors, is often concerned about temperatures, but I'm confident in what I'm doing, and I feel he trusts me now. I can be frank with him, it's great to talk. Meaningful 'thank you's and 'goodbyes' - real effort on his part to make eye contact, and say thank you with his face as well as words. I feel appreciated. I return with the same heartfelt thanks.

8.30am: I'm at uni now, in our CELTA portacabin. I love seeing my coursemates every day.
Does anyone have any sleep I can borrow?
We help each other out with lesson plans. We laugh and joke. We're on this journey together, and I tell you, it really does feel like a true journey. The landscape is changing around us the more we learn. We're all starting to come into our own. Caw blimey everyone should do this!

10.30am and I need to get down to the station for my train to London. I shouldn't really miss a day of the course at all, but I need to apply for the visa in person, and today is the only day we have no Teaching Practice. "Good luck! Good luck!" my coursemates tell me as I leave via the back door.

10.35am: I'm walking down West Street, and see the university's Pro-vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching on his phone as he crosses the road a little behind me. I want to thank him - we got to know one another through my work as a CILASS Student Ambassador, and the last time I saw him was on stage at my graduation ceremony: he made a special effort to whisper his congrats and give me a big grin as I walked past - he's such a nice guy. He asks me what's next for me: I tell him, and he's really happy. We say goodbye - I thank him for his kindness, and as he continues down the road, in my head I tell him that people like him are what make Sheffield Uni so welcoming.

We're on the train to London now. Sitting opposite me is a man with an iPod, playing his music so loud I feel like I'm the one wearing the headphones. I can't help but laugh at the irony of the situation: the headphone's he's using are actually mine - him having asked if he could borrow them a few minutes beforehand.

But the music doesn't distract me for long: an Indian family come and sit in the seats surrounding us. They speak part English, part something else. The 19-year-old daughter, and mother start to play the card game Uno. ten minutes later I find myself bursting out laughing with the rest of the family as the mother, who is being thrashed by her daughter, keeps on making silly mistakes (like saying "Uno" - only to have it pointed out to her that she has two cards in her hand, not one!). The score at the end: 565 to 28. We all wish each other the best as we get off the train in London. (10 hours later we are to meet again on the return train).

I'm at the Japanese embassy. I recognise the security guards and like to think that they recognise me - of course they don't. Once scanned, I'm in, press the button for a ticket for the visa section: no sooner do I have '47' in my hand than '47' flashes up on the "next" sign.

The chap taking my application for a spouse visa is very friendly. We chat about our respective degrees whilst he meticulously checks the great pile of documents I've provided. I accidentally give him the wrong bank book - he is wondering how I am going to convince them that 417 yen (£2) is going to keep me going for a month. I swap it with the post office book, we laugh.

Everything is in order, I reckon we can have this in the post to you tomorrow, he tells me. I'm delighted. In the midst of the mirth the person at the next counter turns to me, "hello Joseph!". It's a Japanese friend from Sheffield. Funny, I'd expected to see someone from Sheffield here. We sit down and talk about his plans for the summer - he's off to see a match at Wembley tonight, then tomorrow, Penzance.

Before I leave the embassy, I ask if Stephen is in today. Stephen is the legend. He has provided me with so much advice, help and support as I've prepared for my visa application, and I want to thank him in person. He appears at the window, a little bashful as I thank him. "Looking forward to your next podcast!" he tells me. "Me too! (as soon as I have time for it!) I reply.

I leave, grateful, and careful to say goodbye and thank you to the security guards who I like to think know me, but who don't.

I'm then getting off the Tube at the wrong stop and trudging for about 45 mins in search of the river Thames. I'm starting to slip into that old thinking mode: I'm tired, Im lost, I'm not going to find a cafe round here. But then I catch myself. I stop, stand still. How about if I approach this in a different way? How about 'I'm heading straight towards the place I need to go, although I don't know where that is yet. The exercise is good for me, I enjoy exploring London.'

suddenly, things are a lot easier.

Eventually I find myself in Trafalgar Square. There's a bookshop, and in the bookshop, a cafe. Perfect. I order some italian milkshake, shake all the sugar off my chair and onto the sugared carpet, and get my pen and paper out. Time for some lesson planning.

The train journey had provided me with ample opportunity for brainstorming - an idea was now taking shape as to how this lesson could look. I scribble it all down. I'm there for two hours. Writing. Thinking. Listening to Patrick, the little 4 year old at the table next to mine with his mum and dad. He's really happy watching the cars through the window.

Look! A blue one!

Oh, it's gone now. Mum, the blue car's gone!

The two Scottish businessmen on my right have been here since I arrived, slagging off their clients.
"I get angry with my colleagues too. They just can't do it right, I can't trust them, so I do it myself". 
I'm happy i don't work for them.

I turn back to the child talk, it's like the pot of gold at the other end of a rainbow that has somehow found itself with one foot in an oil-slick.

Piccadilly Circus next for Curry Rice. It's a genuine Japanese restaurant. Not a Chinese Japanese restaurant or a British Japanese restaurant but a real Japanese one. The staff are Japanese, and so is the curry rice. It tastes like home.

I'm full, and standing watching the crowds go by. Wow! It's exhilarating! So many amazing stories walking by! I want to film it and speed it up. But I don't.

If I had a tripod it would be ok. I could pretend I was a film-maker then. But filming handheld I'd probably get arrested as a terror suspect.

I have two hours until my train - back to St Pancras International - and what a beautiful station it is since the trains to Paris came to call it home last November. I sit in Costa Coffee, still devising my lesson plan whilst trying not to listen to the conversation being held by the Japanese couple beside me. I can't not listen! In the end, I move to the other end of the cafe.

I'm happy to see the train back to Sheffield is one of the new models = power socket for laptop = can work more on my lesson plan. I do. There's a man opposite me who's also got a laptop. It's a Dell. Then a man on the table the other side of the corridor gets his out and starts to type. As if in response to this two more men then appear and plonk a shared Sony Vaio down. We look quite funny, A lady walking by stops and laughs,

"Look at you boys with your toys. Is this some kind of competition?!"

The man opposite me smiles and says, "Mine's bigger than theirs!".

I respond by stroking my MacBook in mock-seduction, "Yes, but it's not necessarily size that counts..."

The carriage is filled with laughter. The woman moves on. We men now pretend that it didn't happen.

On the two hour journey home I near the completion of my lesson plan. It's been real fun, and I feel it's a good plan. Yep, I've achieved a lot today.

As the train pulls into Sheffield a man runs down the aisle with a coffee, shouting "F*ck!". We smile, pack our laptops away, and head out onto the concourse. I feel music is needed to accompany my walk up through town to the SushiMobile. Ah yes, I was going to associate this time with the new Coldplay album wasn't I?

And then there I am, walking up past the illuminated fountains, listening to the first track on the album. ...and I'd not noticed this before, but crikey, this first instrumental track really does sum it all up! There's the sense of a great history of 'stuff' leading to this moment (a moment lasting several weeks), this moment marking the dawning of a new and truly exciting era. But it's not all about anticipation, it's glorious and exciting in itself, every bit!

I think back on the day. I'd met so many people, so many lovely, kind, funny, happy people. Even people who might in some novels be thought of as insignificant extras - like the man in the Post office who sold me the Recorded Delivery pack for my passport. I forget what it was that he said to me, but it was kind, and not in his job description - I appreciated that.

And now finally, I'm here, in bed. *Twinkle* is with me (via emails to and from her mobile), telling me to go to sleep and blog tomorrow. (I can't, I need to let it out, it's been such a good day).

None of this would have been possible without other people. And with only a couple of exceptions, that's other people who were and who basically still are complete strangers, whom I will never see again. Together, this amazing pattern has been woven. Bloomin marvellous.

LIfe. I highly recommend it.

(OK *Twinkle*, I'll go to bed now...)

Night Night.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

life purpose

I feel a great responsibility to make the most of my life.

I've been blessed with good health. I've been blessed with a loving family.
I've been blessed with a wife who is love and light.
I've been blessed with many true friends.

I frequently find myself feeling like this. Feeling almost overwhelmed by fortune.

When this happens during daylight hours, when I'm out and about, I might pause and smile, and say thank you. I then resume whatever the task at hand is.

But when the feeling comes in the evening when I'm at rest, I find it fills my whole body, until I'm buzzing. I'm gripped by it.

And it gets me thinking - what is it that I need to do?

I don't believe that our lives have been mapped out for us. I strongly believe that we shape our own present through the decisions we make, both conscious and unconscious. But I also believe that it's not just us and our logical brains. I believe we have a guiding spirit within us all to help us choose the path that is right for us. We refer to that resource many times every day when listening to our inner feelings (not ego) when making decisions.

I also believe strongly in Synchronicity, I see it manifested in my life almost every day, and have come to trust in it.

However, at times I'm concerned that if I trust in synchronicity to too greater an extend, I could begin to resign myself to paths that I might otherwise proactively choose to branch from. For example, if i find myself in a 'bad' situation, I might say to myself, "It's ok - the reason will show itself in due course" and not make active attempts to end the badness, or avoid it in the future.

Well, whatever.

It's finding that balance, between acting in accordance with my own feelings, and acting in harmony with 'externals' that I attract into my life.

This all relates to my feeling of uneasiness in not 'knowing' where I'm heading next. The next two weeks are sorted (CELTA), and an undefined period after that is sorted too - I have a job at an English school in central Tokyo. But what about long term? I feel I need a clear idea of where I'm heading, what my role is to be. But how far do I push myself to decide, and to what extend do I trust that the right things will fall into place to guide me when the time comes?

Mind you, even as I write this I find myself saying, "Woah there Joseph. Let's have a look and see if we can learn anything from the last 30 years: hasn't everything always happened at just the right time? Haven't you always found yourself experiencing just what you need to experience at any particular point in life?"

Ah, yeah, that's a good point.

But OK, even if everything will work out for the best, what decisions do I need to make today?!

I go back to the feelings of fortune I expressed above, and I feel that I need to give a lot back in order to redress the balance. But how?

I hope that I can get a clearer idea when I'm with *Twinkle* again. She occupies a central place in my life, and I find that my thinking is really helped by talking about stuff with others.

(Which is why we have the daily mumble.)

I look forward to reading this in ten years. I wonder if I'll be any closer to finding the answers to these questions.

Night night. xxx

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A CELTA weekend, and Family Planning

So this is what a CELTA weekend is like then: study, study and more study (and a very enjoyable 3-hour trip out to the Peak District to see friends - thank you!)

It's been fun though. You know, I think I'm actually starting to get my head around English grammatical terms, after 30 years of being frightened of them (yep, right from birth). Did you know that a preposition is a word (or group of words) that is used to show the way in which other words are connected? I didn't.

Spent a good few hours on my first assignment too - language analysis. I find it strangely interesting.

Today I'm creating my lesson plan for tomorrow afternoon, a 40-minute class teaching listening skills. My theme: "Mysteries of Everyday Life". Looking forward to it. :-)


Joseph and Twinkle do purikura

Spent a while on the phone to my darling in Tokyo today. Crikey I think I'm rather in love with her. Anyway anyway, we've set aside a weekend soon after my arrival to make some life plans / family plans together. What we would like to achieve in life both individually and as a family, when we'd like to have children (being conceived in Paris so I'm told), that sort of thing. Once that's done we'll look at what we need in order to accomplish those goals, how we need to improve (or bring in outside help) to achieve them.

Of course we've both done this as individuals several times over the past couple of years, but this will be our first family plan as such. It's very exciting!

Caw blimey, I'm going to be living with my cutey by a big pond ten mins from Shibuya in four weeks!

I love life.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The night before my wedding

bw_joseph twinkle

It's now ten minutes to midnight on the night before my wedding day. I dropped *Twinkle* back to the cottage we've rented for her parents, where she will spend her last night before she becomes my wife.

It's been an amazing day. Thinking back over the last 16 hours I feel tearful - we have been shown such kindness by so many, and the day itself is yet even to begin! We are so so grateful. Thank you so much to everyone involved.

The village hall looks great - we have hundreds of metres of bunting - handmade by a friend. There are hundreds of origami paper cranes too, made by *Twinkle*s family (it took three of them several hours to fold them all, but they look amazing). In the church we have some beautiful beautiful flower arrangements made by my brother's fiancé and mum, using flowers donated by local gardeners. Paper flowers too, made by *Twinkle*s family and fixed to the walls by *Twinkle*s best friend from Japan, Mariko, who arrived from Barcelona at lunchtime. Our guests from the Netherlands have also arrived safely, as has *Twinkle*s second bridesmaid from Tokyo.

I am staggered by the amount of organisation needed just for a party of about 80 people. My head has been buzzing so much I've found myself feeling pretty out of it for a lot of the day. Kind of like, in a dream world. Floating, watching as my body goes about doing this that and the other. It's not been a bad thing, although I know I've looked pretty dreadful!

But I really can't emphasise enough just how much this wedding is a product of many hours of effort by our family and friends. I am so grateful to be able to hand over huge great chunks of organisation to various volunteers. How can we ever repay them?




Following the rehearsal, *Twinkle* and I decided to spend some time together to just 'be' and share our thoughts and feelings of what the day gone by had meant to us, and our feelings about tomorrow, and our married life beyond that (and to practice our ceremonial kiss!). The venue was our lovely little hire car (I am anti-car in principle but i do like our little blue Chevy which came as a free upgrade from the hire company and sports a string of wedding flags flying from the back!), and the Moon Inn at Garway.

I recently wrote of how marriage is changing things - and again tonight we noted how we could almost reach out and touch the change. It's shifting our feelings for one another to a deeper level. The feeling of trust and commitment is really strong - it's taken me by surprise several times today. (...but I thought I already trusted *Twinkle*, and wasn't I already committed to our relationship?!"). The past week has been a simply perfect 'ramp up' to what will take place tomorrow. The timing could not be better.

The wedding rehearsal was really enjoyable, and natural. It was very relaxed - meaning that it felt appropriate to turn around and put my finger to my lips signalling everyone to be quiet when the priest asked if anyone knew of any lawful impediment to our marriage... tee hee, ;-p We are very fortunate to have Elaine as a priest - she is fantastic, and sets everyone at ease.

If I think of us doing that for real tomorrow surrounded by 80 or so of our closest friends, well, ...wow! Just indescribable! How wonderful to be in that environment, sharing our commitment for one another with all those that mean so much to us.

Well, I guess I'd better get some sleep. It'll be an even longer day tomorrow.

My thanks again to all of those involved in making this happen. In my mind, tomorrow's event will not just be a celebration of the relationship that *Twinkle* and I are committing to, but also a celebration of community, of mutual love and support, of family, of friendship, and of the general wonderfulness of life.

night night.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Hurray it's Monday :-)

WARNING! THIS IS WHAT YOU MIGHT LOOK LIKE IF YOU HOLD ONTO LOTS OF BALLOONS
Been a bloomin fantabulous week this. The conference, the completion of the website (will give you the link soon), the people, the coaching course, the friendship... just grand. So much to smile about.

I'm really excited that it's Monday again. That means I have a WHOLE 'NOTHER 7 DAYS to play the game of life! What can I do this week I wonder?

Oh, I know, I can see bjork (still no reply to my message to her the other day asking if she'd like me to take her to the Peaks [that's the Peak District by the way, a national park].

I can tie up my CILASS ends (sob).

I can continue to look forward to seeing my baby - only 17 days until she arrives, marking the end of 6.5 months apart. I might not have much time to mumble after that... :-)

I'm going to register our new publishing company name and logo as a trade mark - £200 for 10 years, bargain! (Watch this space for that website launch too). I think I'll become a shareholder this week as well, provided the solicitors get their act together. Quite how they can charge £700 to register a company I don't know... Still, all of these expenses are covered by the generous start-up funds we've received.

The last of the wedding 'issues' are sorted. I had this feeling all along that we would get our band of first choice. They'd had to say 'no' when I phoned them a couple of months back. I've been reluctant to book anyone else, and was curious as to why this was. Finally, yesterday I had the feeling that it was time to give our band of choice another call. I did. they told me that their plans had changed - they said 'yes'.

I delight in this intuition we all have, it's bloomin' amazing! Ok, so we may not be able to detect when earthquakes are going to strike as dogs can, but we can tell when our ceilidh band of choice will finally say yes (bet dogs can't do that).

So caw blimey gov everything is fantastic. Thank you dear world for treating me so good.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

TTFN

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From the train: Nuclear Drivers and Being the Change



I'm on the train back to Sheffield. It's been a pretty easy journey, relaxing. For the first leg I was on a rail-relacement bus. I sat at the front as I often do on buses, provided they have seat-belts. Next to me was a chap in his 40s. Pretty scruffy, stinking of cigarettes.

"This bus journey is costing me £400" he said to the driver, clearly pretty pissed off. "I'm a truckie - got a load of nuclear waste to take to Germany tonight, have to be at Dover by 10pm. I'm gonna miss that ferry because of these engineering works - you have no idea how much trouble that's gonna cause. They have to make special allowances for me, have to make sure I'm on the deck - it's a nuclear load you know"

The bus driver mumbled something about the train company working to upgrade the track.

"Yeah, well, it's just not good enough. I'm gonna make sure this rail company gets all the bad press it deserves."

Well, that'll certainly help, won't it?

Things were quiet after that. Just the guy at Stockport who seemed suicidal in a manic kind of way. Thankfully he didn't jump in front of the train - just banged repeatedly on the door until it opened.

I've been reading more of the Be The Change. I tell you, if you have any dreams of starting any kind of movement or company to bring about positive change, this book is a must. It is so inspiring. You can't help but feel "Why not me?" after reading this book.

The other message that comes out of it's butterfly-adorned pages is that it is vital to follow your passion. You also need to have a laser-like focus; seek advice as widely as possible; have a plan that is set and followed, yet flexible; get a great team around you.
If you have these things, you can't fail in whatever you do.

I'm struck by what these people have achieved. They have touched the lives of billions. They are incredible - and yet at the same time they are no different from Joe Bloggs. Indeed, it's that message that is one of the loudest. These folks don't have buckets of money, they aren't nuclear physicists, they don't necessarily have any clear idea of what they want to do at the outset - but they do find their passion, and follow it.

Mind you, if I look around, I see people like that everywhere, doing amazing things (be they small or big amazing things) on a daily basis, making a difference. I bet if I interviewed a sample of my friends and acquaintances (and mumblers) I'd be able to fill a book that was just as inspiring, in its own way.

All of this keeps on leading me back to my new life with *Twinkle*. Just can't get her out of my head. This new partnership excites me so much. Scares me too. So much change, so much opportunity - am I going to be brave enough to step outside of my comfort zone and follow my heart? It would be far easier to just settle for something that doesn't stretch me too much, but I think long term that would be quite painful.

Ho hum.

Just pulling into Sheffield Station, must dash.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Post-student life begins

Sheffield Panorama 1

So yes, the change from student to non-student is going well. Having got rid of much of my coursework last night (I would have kept it had I been staying in the UK), I then advertised my last few books on Amazon - they were sold within hours and are in the post to their new student-owners. I've trawled through the backlog of emails, and moved all my uni work to the archives. It feels good. There's now space for something new.

The dark clouds have parted, and *Twinkle* and I are stronger for the storm. That's the thing, after really dark times, the sun shines extra bright. I'm loving organising the wedding, and having a lot of fun with the website (Apple's iWeb and .mac do have their uses after all).

This evening I was able to attend a free life-coaching session courtesy of the university's White Rose Enterprise Zone. That was good. It helped me shift my focus from what has passed, to what is now, and what has to come. And I was reminded once again of the importance of listening.

26 hours later

I was up at 5am today, for a jog to the top of the hill I've been meaning to climb for 4 years. It's opposite my house and has great views of Sheffield. I had such a great time. Two hours of walking in peace in that huge park, taking photos, listening to the Radiant Vista's Craig Tanner. I was so surprised to discover a woodland in Sheffield, and a huge green open space with a helicopter landing pad in the middle, bigger than a full-size football pitch.

I uploaded the original 6-photo panorama to Flickr which shows up the detail of the uni and all in the middle, including of course the beloved arts tower and ic. I uploaded this shot too - it's a structure that stands on the top of the hill overlooking the city - I wonder what it was?

sheffield viewpoint_7341

I'm loving this space. I have a tonne of things to do, but I'm able to work on them without feeling guilty. I even have time to read the books I was given at Christmas, and I've started my latest Murakami audio book again.

Oh, and I started studying Japanese again! I really like the "learn Japanese through newspapers" book I won at the speech contest, and so am doing one of those short lessons every day. The learning never stops!

I watched a film tonight too, Pay it Forward. This was given as an assignment for my coaching course (I'm in week four now, and really feeling the benefits). The film had me in tears though. But what a great idea. I'm sold on it and will work to become more aware of opportunities pay it forward myself. I have a lot to pay forward, having been the recipient of so much goodwill in various guises.

Spot the Arts Tower
flower-framed sheffield_7297

Anyway, bed time for me. I have a lot to do this weekend, and then of course Monday is the event we're all waiting for - Steve Jobs' keynote from WWDC. We are VERY excited!

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The challenges of a long distance relationship



A misunderstanding this week between *Twinkle* and myself has led me to realise that, after 5 months apart, we've started to lose touch with one another's realities. Whilst we do communicate regularly via email (just over 2,500 messages since we saw one another in January), these cannot give us a true picture of the daily mosaic of each others lives. Skype is all well and good, but the time difference and our busy schedules means that these exchanges are limited in number, and quality, with one or both of us being too exhausted for meaningful conversation.

This means we are losing the ability to understand one another's feelings and reactions to the everyday occurrences that we do talk about.

Things have become especially difficult lately as the end of this period apart has suddenly been moved back by between one and four months. This is due to recent conversations with the Japanese authorities, who not only require me to go through a tedious 2-month-plus application process for my visa (whether it be a work visa or spouse visa), but also require that I have between £2000 and £3000 (US$ 4K - 6K) in my bank account for three months. I'm a student at the end of 5 years of higher education, so of course that is money that I don't have - and I don't know anyone who could lend it to me either. Even if I did, we couldn't do the usual temporary transfer to get the required bank statement. It needs to sit there.

This means that I might even have to stay in the UK until the autumn in order to save up the necessary funds (even if I had a job lined up before I went to Japan I would need funds to keep me going for the first two months). Thinking of how difficult things are between myself and *Twinkle* at the moment, this is an horrific thought. Especially as we'll be newly married in July.

It's all a bit of a mess really. The only thing I can think to do is try not to worry about these disagreements that have resulted from a lack of understanding of our current situations, and instead focus upon the love and understanding that holds us together at a deeper level. I think it's important that we not let the situation get the better of us. We are good together, and we know it. Just got to stay strong.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

IBL Staff-Student Symposium



Full day of work today, from 8.30am to 4.30pm. I say 'work', but it was more like hanging out with friends. CILASS friends.

Today was the 2nd CILASS Inquiry Based Learning Staff-Student Symposium. Some people may remember me talking about giving a presentation via Skype from Tokyo at last year's event - well, this time around I was able to eat the free lunch as well.

I won't go into details here as I'll be blogging about it on the CILASS blog and will link to it. But I would like to share a few photos of the day.

Student Ambassadors modelling sexy CILASS T-Shirts


Got to the IC at 8.30am to blow up helium balloons with Barbara - that was FUN!



Laura, student ambassador co-ordinator and all-round wonderwoman was also on the scene to wake us with that smile of hers



Next, I moved to my station in CILASS 3, armed with Macbook and a VAIO to co-ordinate live blogging (limited success, I wasn't forthright enough) and the uploading of photos taken at the event - the idea was to see how quickly I could get photos from the symposium sessions onto flickr & tagged in order that they automatically display on all the screens in the place (its things like this that give me insane amounts of pleasure). Got about 250 photos up by the end of the day.

It was whilst sorting out the tags and things that Barbara and I came up with a stunning idea, inspired by thinking of those tourist spots where you stick your head through the holes in the big wooden signboards and have your photo taken so it's your face with some famous person's body. Well take that concept, and cross it with Disneyland, and throw in some tools for Inquiry Based Learning, thus creating an 'IBL Land' - albeit a bit smaller (i.e. as small as the glass-walled CILASS 1, which is about 2 metres by 3 metres in size).

Yes, this was a fantastic idea! We kitted out the room with an assortment of Sony VAIOs, Toshiba Tablet PCs, a white board and a big collection of impressive-looking books from the nearby shelves, all promoting the theme of Inquiry Based Learning.

Then, we put a sign up outside: "Come and get your IBL Photo taken here today!"

Students, "Doing IBL"



At one point I was dared to ask the Pro-Vice Chancellor (who was visiting for prize-giving) to come and have his photo taken in our IBL land - I did - and got the shot (although not realising how silly I am he was a little bemused at first).

Speaking of the Pro-Vice Chancellor and prize giving: I mentioned the other day that myself and my classmates had successfully nominated our tutor for a £2000 prize in recognition of all her amazing work in promoting IBL - today was the day that she was to accept the award. However, at the last minute, I realised that she wasn't there ...I gave her a call, and was told that she couldn't make it because she was in class - would I accept it on her behalf?



Later on, I presented her with the big bunch of flowers and award certificate: no doubt receiving them from me was almost as exciting for her as receiving them from the Pro-Vice Chancellor!

I'm so happy that she won. She really deserves it. In a way, I like to think of it as a thank you from all of us in our final year for all the work she's put in these last few years to teach us Japanese. (She's so modest though. When I took the flowers to her office it turned out that two of her closet colleagues didn't even know about it!).




I'm comforted though in knowing that it isn't really the 'end' of any relationships. If I Look back over the past 12 years at the various places I've lived and the stages I've been through, all of those places and stages are still very much a part of my life, In this era of email, Skype & online social networks, it's not easy to lose contact. Classmates, CILASS colleagues, tutors & other friends - all these people won't suddenly dissapear from my life the moment I leave uni.

In a way, with regards to my language teachers this could be thought of as just the beginning. As my language develops during my time in Japan, so I'll be more inclined to contact them. That was one thing I enjoyed towards the end of last year, 'calling home' to Sheffield from Tokyo several times to catch up on the latest departmental news.

Ho hum.

I have about 13 days to finish my dissertation. I'll spend much of this weekend offline writing that. If you've sent me an email recently, thank you, I'll be in touch. Have a bit of a backlog at the mo.

night night xxx

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Final assignment received

Things are happening.

We were given our final assignment today. A translation piece. Thus, all I have to do now is that story (by the end of May), finish my dissertation (by mid-May), perform a drama (Thursday), take an exam (4th June).

I feel pretty motivated and will work hard to get these done as soon as possible.

I emailed the embassy this morning enquiring about my application. They tell me that notification was sent two weeks ago, to my home address and to my flat here in Sheffield. Hmm, that's strange. I wonder what the reason for that happening is...

Anyway, this means that I should get a second notification tomorrow.

It's funny, I've long thought that things happen for a reason ...but reading Murakami novels does make you see huge life-changing consequences lurking beneath every little thing that happens!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Wondering what's around the corner


I'm about a third of a way through the 27-hour audio version Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.

Murakami is the first fiction author whose books I've read more than one of - this is my third (following Kafka on the Shore & Norwegian Wood).

I'm finding this one as involving as the previous two, and I'm wondering, is it now reaching that point where it start to teach me whatever it is I need to learn from it?

If I think of Kafka working in the library, I'm back there on the carpeted floor of the Mongolian Yurt on day two of my stay last summer- thankfully not being skinned alive (not the most relaxing bedtime story. I could hardly bear to listen to it). If I move on a bit to Hoshino trying to open the stone I'm bumping along on that 9-hour car journey back to the capital, Ulaanbatar. I almost feel like I wouldn't have survived that journey without sharing in Nakata's own journey.

Norwegian Wood (which sees me clearing the path on the Welsh Garden Project site) led me, I realised afterwards, to finally come to understand an old Japanese friend of mine. I'd lost contact with her, abruptly, and I never figured out why. When listening to Norwegian Wood, she popped into my head once or twice, and i recognised her in the characters portrayed. It felt good to have closure on that.

As I listen to Toru tell the story of his marriage to Kumiko, I can't help but think of my own marriage. It's something I've been thinking about quite a lot in any case, as is only natural. What does it actually mean to me? This feeling of responsibility it contains - is that coming from within me, I mean really within me, or is it more a product of outside influence?

How will our life differ this time from last time we lived together? Then, I was a student, on a temporary stay. This time it will be very different. There will be an element of ...permanentness.

How will this affect my attitude towards life in general? In a way I have had it easy for the past 8 years. Ever since I split up with my ex in fact, and left Torquay for Switzerland. But even then,despite the fact that we'd bought a house together, deep down we knew that it was only temporary. Since then, I've lived knowing that even if I made absolutely no effort at instigating change myself, my life would change in a big way anyway, all by itself, within a maximum of 12 months.

Switzerland: I was on seasonal contracts.
Japan: My visa would expire
Bristol (UK): My Access course would come to an end
Sheffield: I would graduate


And now, as of August 2008, I will not have this safety net of prescribed change. If I want things to happen in my life, it will be entirely up to me. If I let myself drift along (as is only to easy to do), I may be happy in the short term, I will get things done, change will occur ...but I'll feel somehow unfulfilled. I don't think I'm the kind of person cut out for that. Many people are, and that's great, I'm not knocking them for that, but I feel like I am so absolutely packed full of energy just bursting to be channelled into 'stuff' that I'd be stifled by having no prospect of guaranteed change or progression.

In a way, this is another reason why i want the CIR job in Japan. With an annual contract (renewable up to 5 years) there's that time limit. It would push me to make the most of today, every day, and never put off trying to realise dreams for some tomorrow that will never come.

I sometimes wonder where this excitement has come from. Did I always have it? According to my beliefs, yes, I did. I have always been a little hyper; "OTT" was how I was described to my parents by my teacher as a teenager (I felt terrible about that at the time, like I'd really let them al down).

Hmmm.

I hope to get a reply from the embassy this coming week. It's nearing a month since everyone else was informed. I can only assume that my application is continuing to give them grief due to my request to be near *Twinkle*. In a way though, I feel the longer I wait, the better the chances that this will all work out for the best.

It feels a bit like sitting in the bottom of a well though, waiting for a line to be cast down. It's not a well of doom and despair, just a well of contemplation and nervous tension, wondering what the view is going to be like when I get out.

Ho hum. Start of a brand new week in the morning.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Total Success Institute


Great day today. Got that video submitted to the competition - I've had that lingering on my to do list for several months now. Then, it was wedding planning. Phone calls made, meetings arranged, all very exciting!

Following that it was congrats to my *Twinkle*, who in the month of March saw sales in excess of 1.8 million yen (about £9,200) - a new record for her (our) relatively young direct marketing business (organic food, organic supplements, eco-consumables etc). Says a lot about her character, and what she expects out of life. Good to have a successful partner, keeps you on your toes. If you get too lazy they bring a millionaire home to replace you.

A bit of Japanese homework, and then finally, the call I'd been waiting for.

A few days back I blogged about a call I'd had with a life coach. It was interesting, inspiring, but not especially life-changing. A bit like the latest audiobook on personal development I'm listening to. You find after you've read the ten or fifteen core texts there's not much but rehashing, people just jumping on the bandwagon to make money, lacking any real creativity or insight themselves. I've been pretty fortunate in that I've only found myself stuck with two such duds. And last week's coaching call.


But today was a bit different. I'd mentioned that previous phone call to my sister, who then recalled a one-day seminar she'd been to a year ago run by the Total Success Institute (new website on the way). She'd been really impressed, and personally knew of two people who had taken their courses - I should contact them. I did, and got prompt replies from both of them.
"Everyone should take this course, it makes for an all-round better life".

"It will definitely be a worthwhile investment".

So, the next step was to get a taste of what they offered. I listened to an interview with the founder, it sounded good. I read some of the information on their website, and signed up for a free coaching call.



Why do I feel I need coaching?

In the next few months, several things are going to happen:

1) I'm going to graduate
2) I'm going to marry my *Twinkle* and thus have my own family (includes baby mac)
3) I'm going to be faced with the choice of where I direct the bulk of my energy for the first time in 5 years

These are pretty mega changes, and I want to make sure I make the most of this huge opportunity to steer my life in the direction I want it to go in.

I don't have much experience of marketing myself in the professional field. Sure, I have a popular website (thank the horse cocks for that; they remain at No.1 in the Search Query Report for the 6th year running), I have language skills, computer skills, people/communication skills ...but when it comes to the marketplace I'm lost, and don't know how to position myself to utilise my full potential. I lack the necessary confidence. I lack these skills.

Books can only give you so much. At some point, you have to put them down and act, otherwise they only have as much of an impact as one hand clapping loudly against the air. A book doesn't know my specific skills set, and a book can't set me specific targets to help me motivate myself and move forward. Coaching can do that.

I've invested over £20,000 in my BA Japanese Studies degree. It's been money very well spent. Thinking of that, it seems only prudent to invest a little in learning how to take these skills and turn them into something that generates an income.

If I was the type destined to enter a big company and then leave my development/future in the hands of their HR department, well, perhaps I'd be alright as I am. But I'm not. I love being creative, making things happen, making a difference. I want to generate my own income stream doing the things I love to do, whether that be consulting, speaking, writing, teaching or whatever.

(Incidentally, this is one reason why I am keen to work as a CIR on the JET scheme - annual contract with not a sniff of a pre-determined career in sight. It's like an internship. Opens doors.)

So, this is why I would like to have some coaching. It feels like natural progression (especially considering the way I was introduced to it). Like a logical next step in this 18-month journey.

Some may scoff and say "you don't need coaching! what a waste of money!" I wonder, would these people say the same to a wannabe singer who has a fabulous voice but is yet to learn how to control it?




I called Cliff at the agreed time (although it took a bit of thinking to figure out what the 'agreed time' was, as the clocks have just changed here and he's in the USA!) and was soon struck by the homework he'd done. He'd been reading some website called Tame Goes Wild, and knew all about me. He even knew I'd spent some time this afternoon preparing for my wedding. How does this information get out there?

I was pretty staggered to learn that he knew what a Steiner education was; this of course meant he had a better idea of what kind of person I was, what with the (good?!) reputation us Steiner / Waldorf kids have! I also found he was open to my ideas on spirituality, which served to help build my trust in him.

As we talked so I found myself wondering at his intuition. He was incredibly observant and picked up on a lot of stuff that I hadn't mentioned during the call and wasn't posted online. "Have you got a brother called Wayne Dyer?!" I asked at one point, laughing.

In the end we were talking for an hour and a quarter. Having got a pretty good idea of where I was in life, he made some concrete suggestions regarding how I approach the opportunity on the horizon, one of which had never even occurred to me, yet fits my skill set perfectly. I was impressed, and realised that were I to agree to work with this coach, 'things would happen'.

There was no high-pressure sell, and there has been no high-pressure sell in the follow up. Just demonstrations of professionalism and integrity.

I can't say I recommend the coaching that TSI offer yet, because apart from today's phone call, I've had none. Still, I'll be signing up for an introductory course when my student loan comes through, and keep you posted so you can laugh with me, or at me (whichever suits your personal opinion the best). I hope in the long term to take it further with 1 on 1 coaching. I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

I would say though, that if anyone is already seriously considering coaching, DON'T consider TSI. It was in a totally different league from my last coaching experience, real big-picture yet pragmatic life changing stuff.


Oh, and if you do contact them, do mention TameGoesWild!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Yet another way to easily save someone's life today

A couple of days ago I blogged about signing up to become an organ donor, something I did last week. My conscience had been pricked by the results of research I'd carried out in preparation for a presentation in our Japanese language class.

We'd been given three topics to choose from: organ donation, blood donation, bone marrow donation.

The third option hadn't fired my imagination, as it seemed somehow limited in scope (in fact, it was my ignorance of the life-saving potential of bone marrow transplants that led to my unfortunate disinterest). The presentation done, I was ready to forget about it.

Until fifteen minutes ago when I got an email from another student society at university:


Sheffield Marrow will be holding their annual Bone Marrow Awareness Week from
Monday 10th March – Saturday 15th March

Sheffield Marrow is a student run society at the University of Sheffield which is part of the national student-run outreach project of the Anthony Nolan Trust. We are a charitable organization and our three main objectives are to:
1. appoint people to the bone marrow register
2. fund-raise for the Anthony Nolan Trust
3. increase awareness of bone marrow transplants and the need for more donors


Intrigued, I paid a visit to the Anthony Nolan Trust web site. It was there, reading the accounts of those whose lives had been saved by donors, that I realised that I should absolutely be on this register.

Sure, by being an organ donor I can save lives ...but that may not be for a while. I can (and will on Tuesday) give blood, and that's groovy, but wow - here is yet another chance to give someone the most amazing gift they will ever receive - life. And what do I need to get on this register? A simple blood test. Easy as that.

Having read through their guidelines I find that unfortunately, I can't add my name to their world-wide database until 2011, when I will have gone three years without an epileptic seizure. It's not that epilepsy can be passed on through a bone marrow transplant, it's the risk that I would have a seizure when coming round from the anaesthetic. So I've added it to my Google Calendar for 2011.

The thing that gets me about these three actions that I can take today to potentially save lives (register, give blood, register), is that I haven't considered doing them before now. If those people who I could potentially save were right in front of me, about to be hit by a bus, I'm sure I would do my best to save them. But because they are somewhere else in space and time, I've never appreciated that by taking action today (signing a few forms and enduring a little discomfort) I could actually do exactly the same thing - and without even endangering my own life! To not do so out of laziness or disinterest feels, for me personally, pretty wrong. If I'd seen a child playing in the road and heard a bus approaching from around the corner and done nothing about it, I don't think I would ever be able to justify having let them get run over because "I didn't quite get around to picking them up".

Ok, so that may be a bit of an extreme example, but at the end of the day, regardless of time and space, it's about life and death. If there's an easy way in which I can save someone's life then I feel that it is my responsibility to do so.

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